California Guitar Trio - 2002 CG3 + 2

ARTIST: California Guitar Trio
ALBUM: CG3 + 2
LABEL: Inside Out Music
YEAR: 2002

LINEUP: Paul Richards, Bert Lamy and Hideyo Moriya - all guitars * Tony Levin - bass, chapman stick * Pat Mastelotto - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Melrose Ave * 02 Skyline * 03 Dancing Anne * 04 Heart Of The Sunrise * 05 Hanagasa * 06 Zundoko Bushi * 07 Blockhead * 08 Dance Of Maya * 09 Swampy Space * 10 Swampy Return * 11 Train To Lamy * 12 Eve * 13 What I Am * 14 The Chase


For those of you unfamiliar with these guys, they've recorded a huge body of work both in the studio and live. They met at one of Robert Fripp's guitar clinics and then toured with his League of Crafty Guitarists. None of them are from California.

I've always been very wary of reviewing guitar instrumental albums as I can't play myself, but Chris Francis (Ten guitarist) once told me that didn't really matter.

As long as my reviews conveyed a sense of the music, the lack of technical details is not important - and besides, it makes the review interesting for other non-musicians, and it's fair to remember lots of non-musicians enjoy instrumental albums too.

The Songs

This is a great album for the most part. No question about it. These people are excellent musicians and this album contains instrumental pieces in all different styles.

'Melrose Avenue' is a world music piece with a heavy bias towards an eastern sound, fast picked acoustic guitars at fifty paces. 'Skyline' may have been a more accessible opener with it's W.G. Snuffy Walden meets Led Zeppelin III approach. The track also features Levin's first shining moment here, with some tasteful fretless work.

'Dancing Ann' is conventional by CG3 standards, with its ordinary time signature and under-stated lead work. 'Heart Of The Sunrise' is an instrumental re-working of the Yes classic. Tony Levin got to play this so much when he was on the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe tour in the late 1980s, he can probably play it in his sleep.

'Hanagasa' comes straight out of left field, with a reggae base and twin lead work on acoustic guitars. Very nice indeed. 'Zundoko-Bushi' leaves me cold, as I've never been a fan of surf instrumentals, though I'll make exceptions for Gary Hoey, but regardless, CG3 give it everything they've got.

So, how do they follow the breeziness of the surfboard? With the tribal roots of 'Blockhead' (naturally), featuring huge drums from Mastelloto on the 'choruses', and Steve Hackett-esque 12-string guitar on the 'verses'.

The album then takes a severe turn to the left, as the CG3 start wielding their electrics for the aggressive slide guitar blues 'Dance of Maya', which again, reverts to semi-acoustics for its mid-section, and the rootsy 'Swamp Blues/Swampy Return'.

Just when you think these guys have settled in for a blues groove for the rest of the disc, 'Train to Lamy' comes like a slap in the face. The blues-fuelled slide guitars are there for the first half, and then for the second half, the track becomes a full-on bluegrass finger pickin' stomp.

'What I Am' revisits a guitar sound similar to that used on a couple of tracks earlier in the album, but the use of drum loops is off-putting (was Mastelotto on a tea break?) and the track comes across as one of the album's weakest due to its lack of real direction.

Both this and 'Eve' sit uncomfortably here, I feel, as they don't really have the urgency of the other compositions. They sound as if they'd be better suited to a film soundtrack. 'The Chase' sound like a sprawling mass of every idea CG3 could think of.

Again, it sounds more like experimental soundtrack work and the Future Sound Of London style drum loops may again be off-putting to some of you.

In Summary

The last few tracks let the side down a little, but don't let that put you off checking this out. It's definitely worth a shout.

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